Volume 1 Issue 9 September 2017

Volume 1 Issue 9

Global groundwater resources are threatened by over-extraction. Castilla-Rho et al. develop an agent-based model of irrigated agriculture based on cooperative and collective action theory, incorporating results from the World Values Survey. The model captures the cultural, socioeconomic, institutional and physical conditions that determine how likely people in different at-risk regions are to comply with regulations.

See Castilla-Rho et al 1, 0181 (2017).

See also Janssen 1, 0196 (2017).

Image: InkkStudios/E+/Getty. Cover design: Samantha Whitham.


  • Editorial |

    No amount of engineering, laws or regulations will be sufficient to sustain the commons without a deeper understanding of how, when and under what conditions humans cooperate.


Comment and Opinion

  • World View |

    Attempts to persuade people to be healthier often have limited success. Public health should focus more on marginal gains that require little or no effort, says Michael Hallsworth.

    • Michael Hallsworth
  • Comment |

    The development of autonomous weapon systems, by removing the human element of warfare, could make war crimes and atrocities a thing of the past. But if these systems are unable to respect the principles of humanitarian law, we might create a super-intelligent predator that is beyond our control.

    • James Dawes
  • Comment |

    Science, by its nature, is open to uncertainty and interpretation, but politicization — fuelled by motivated reasoning and advances in the technological environment — is leading to a new level of science scepticism among citizens and scientists themselves. What can be done to address these crises?

    • James N. Druckman

Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News and Views |

    Social norms are the dominant behavioural patterns in a group that affect how people follow rules and regulations. A new modelling study shows, for different localities around the world, how the combination of biophysical context and social norms affects cooperation in water conservation.

    • Marco A. Janssen
  • News and Views |

    Many studies have shown that human cooperation is fostered by altruistic cooperation and the altruistic punishment of freeriders. A study now shows significant asymmetries between cooperation in the initial provision of a social good and cooperation in the maintenance of an established social good.

    • Herbert Gintis
  • News and Views |

    What would motivate someone to willingly enter frontline combat against the Islamic State? New research finds three compelling reasons: commitment to some sacred values, forsaking commitment to their own kin for those same values, and belief in the spiritual strength of one’s own group compared to that of the enemy.

    • John G. Horgan


  • Review Article |

    Sagiv et al. review two decades of research into personal values. Although subjective in nature, self-reported values predict a large array of attitudes and preferences. As such, they provide invaluable insight into human behaviour.

    • Lilach Sagiv
    • , Sonia Roccas
    • , Jan Cieciuch
    •  & Shalom H. Schwartz


  • Letter |

    Global groundwater resources are threatened by over-extraction. An agent-based model is presented, incorporating cooperative and collective action theory that reveals tipping points in social attitudes toward conservation in three at-risk regions.

    • Juan Carlos Castilla-Rho
    • , Rodrigo Rojas
    • , Martin S. Andersen
    • , Cameron Holley
    •  & Gregoire Mariethoz
  • Letter |

    Gächter et al. use experiments and simulations to show that low levels of cooperation (the ‘tragedy of the commons’) are systematically more likely in maintaining a public good than in providing a new one, even under identical incentives.

    • Simon Gächter
    • , Felix Kölle
    •  & Simone Quercia
  • Article |

    Brummitt et al. show how supply-chain disruptions can spread contagiously throughout an economy. Adaptations to frequent disruptions can lead to the emergence of a poverty trap. Implications for ‘big push’ economic development policies are discussed.

    • Charles D. Brummitt
    • , Kenan Huremović
    • , Paolo Pin
    • , Matthew H. Bonds
    •  & Fernando Vega-Redondo
  • Article |

    The study by Gómez et al. of frontline fighters and non-combatants shows that a willingness to fight and die in intergroup conflict is associated with the sacrifice of material concerns for sacred values, and the perceived spiritual strength of in-groups and adversaries.

    • Ángel Gómez
    • , Lucía López-Rodríguez
    • , Hammad Sheikh
    • , Jeremy Ginges
    • , Lydia Wilson
    • , Hoshang Waziri
    • , Alexandra Vázquez
    • , Richard Davis
    •  & Scott Atran
  • Article |

    Momennejad et al. formulate and provide evidence for the successor representation, a computational learning mechanism intermediate between the two dominant models (a fast but inflexible ‘model-free’ system and a flexible but slow ‘model-based’ one).

    • I. Momennejad
    • , E. M. Russek
    • , J. H. Cheong
    • , M. M. Botvinick
    • , N. D. Daw
    •  & S. J. Gershman